Week of May 12

The Power in Prayer and Praise

Read: 2 Samuel 10; 1 Chronicles 20; Psalm 20; Matthew 22

“O Lord, in your strength the king rejoices,
and in your salvation how greatly he exults!
You have given him his heart’s desire
and have not withheld the request of his lips.”
Psalm 20:1-2, ESV


Piety, not cavalry, saves the king! Two keys to victory in any battle include devotion to God and reliance upon His power, according to the psalmist. I believe we may apply the same principle to the daily challenges we face. Surely, God knows our battles and He is more than able to help. He provides strength for the challenge when we worship Him, despite our trials, and rely upon His power. I know several of you who are facing extraordinary struggles with health. Others are wrestling with family dynamics, and a few more are facing what seems to be mountains of financial stress. Let’s examine this psalm closely today and learn how we may rely more completely upon the Lord when we are faced with enormous challenges.

The Meaning of the Text

The psalm’s genre
God’s people, when faced with imminent enemy attackers, include praise as a means to prepare for the upcoming military campaign! This hymn has been classified as a royal psalm because it is apparent that the king is the one going into battle (cf. Psalm 2; 18; Handbook). This point in time in Israel’s history has been entitled “The Ammonite Campaign.” Coalitions of evil nations with harmful intent were aligned against David and Israel.

We also notice that the congregation asks the Lord to grant the king victory too (20:1-5). The king, or perhaps a prophet or priest, expresses his confidence that God will be with him and provide a victory (20:6-8). The hymn concludes with a repetition of the request by the priests (20:9; Handbook).

These challenges, many of which are paralleled today, called for extraordinary help which only God could provide. Do we see the point? God raises up nations, grants them success, and He is honored when His people offer consistent prayers for protection and benefit.
A pattern to follow in our own struggles
Show devotion to God before facing the conflict. The psalm was likely composed prior to a battle and the psalmist prays for victory in the upcoming conflict. I have never been faced with a life and death situation like this one, but I can imagine the fear that would well up within the heart of the most seasoned soldier. In this royal psalm, it is the king who is going into battle. If he loses, the entire nation suffers horrific oppression from their enemies. He demonstrates the close kinship between piety and power. Few of us have been in the same shoes as one of Israel’s kings who often accompanied their troops into the conflict. We can, however, follow the prayer framework this leader used to call on the Lord.
God gives the victory. The psalmist first asks the Lord to give the king victory in battle (vv. 1-5), and then he expresses his confident belief that the Lord will be with the king and grant the triumph (vv. 6-8). He closes with a repetition of the request (v. 9). We may quickly identify with the psalmist because the bookends around the hymn state, “the Lord answer you” and “answer us when we call.” The troubled leader simply wants some indication that God will render help and provide rescue. Surely we have been in a similar position of need. Let’s dig deeper into the meaning of the psalm, because we need the full nourishment that its fruit will give to us.
Keep God in full view throughout the struggle. We need to keep in mind that an enemy has attacked, or is about to attack, but it is the “royal glory” that is in the psalmist’s view. The Lord’s honor is threatened, and we come close to praying the same thing when we pray, “Your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven” (Matthew 6:10). The heartbeat of the psalm rests in verse 6 where the petitions focus on God granting victory to His anointed (i.e., “Messiah”; EBC).
We may express similar concern in our personal distress by petitioning Jesus to establish fully His messianic kingdom where “every knee will bow” (v. 8; cf. Philippians 2:10; 1 Corinthians 15:25-26; EBC). There is one other thing that we need to recognize when we are praying through this psalm. The psalmist calls upon the “God of Jacob” to save them. This refers of course to the Lord who delivered Israel (“Jacob”) from Egypt (Exodus 19:3-4), and who deals justly with His people (cf. Psalm 146:5-10).

The Message for Your Heart

I have watched rescue crews descend upon massive piles of rubble with search and rescue dogs and ultra-sensitive, seismic sensors. The dogs are trained to use their sense of smell to locate humans and the technology is used to detect the slightest sound/vibration caused by survivors beneath the rubble. So much better than these, God hears the faintest prayer and the tiniest whisper of praise from us!

There will be times when we are as low as we can be, so we are encouraged to sing out for God to protect us. Israel prayed for God to do this by raising up their king and giving him the victory. We may do the same by praying for Christ’s kingdom to be established, knowing we will benefit from the eradication of evil. So, sing! “O Lord, in your strength the king rejoices, and in your salvation how greatly he exults!”

For Thought and Action

1. Take time today to apply the fears and frustrations of your heart to a favorite praise tune. Pour out your heart’s cry to the Lord through praise. Make it your weekly practice to pray for our national crises through this psalm.
2. For Families: Our children love to sing praise to God. My youngest grandson, Obadiah, hums or sings most of the time he is awake! Whenever I am near him and hear the sound his heart is making, I am reminded that God loves our constant praise. Here is a wonderful kids praise song, “Armor of God,” about God’s power that enables us to be victorious in Him each day. Click to sing along.

May your paths be straight,
Larry C. Ashlock